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NBA owners, players may be talking but don’t think a deal is near

Sep 1, 2011, 9:58 AM EDT

Billy Hunter AP

There are signs of optimism out of the owners and players meeting Wednesday — they are going to stop trying to win the public relations battle through the media and they are keeping future meetings under wraps. The two sides said little else after a six-hour meeting in New York.

Good. I’m all for transparency most of the time, but deals do not get negotiated when both sides are more interested in making a case to the public. (Note to Congress, you could heed that advice every now and again, it might help.) Keep things under wraps and just try to get a deal done.

That said, don’t think for a second they are close to a deal.

Here are the words of players’ union executive director Billy Hunter after the meeting, as reported by the New York Daily News.

“We haven’t had a breakthrough yet,” union executive director Billy Hunter told the Daily News Wednesday night after the two sides met at a Manhattan hotel. “We both realize that we need to continue to sit down and meet and talk to get the kind of breakthrough… to make a deal. We have to get that breakthrough, somehow.”

The breakthrough issue is how to define and divide “basketball related income” and anything short of that is window dressing. The players got 57 percent of what was basically (with a few exceptions) the gross income of the league in the last deal. They offered to knock that down to 54.3 percent, but the owners want it below 50 percent and want to redefine it as more net income than gross. Ideally, the owners would like to decouple the salary cap from league revenues all together, the players want the two linked.

Once that issue is solved things like the hard salary cap and contract lengths could fall into place relatively quickly. But until they have that breakthrough moment, the rest of it is window dressing.

But solving that core issue is not easy, the two sides are nowhere near a deal.

But at least they are talking now, so it’s a start.

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